Shortly after the election I began to wonder whether, despite my best efforts, I voted Republican. Honestly, sometimes it isn’t easy to tell the political parties apart. Greed in a suit looks pretty much the same. Did I unwittingly contribute to the new GOP mandate?
It wouldn’t bother me that much to vote for some Republicans. On Election Day I stood outside Bellamy School with Cal, a transplant from near Oxford, NC. He identified himself as Republican but wore a Barfield T-shirt and handed out Mr. Barfield’s flyers. He explained, “Heck, I’m a Republican, but have you listened to what the other guy says? I actually listened to Mr. Barfield. I like what he says. For the economy. Heck, you can’t have an economy without an environment, can you?”
That’s my kind of Republican. Cal opined that one of the main reasons Mr. Barfield wouldn’t get elected was, “Well, you know.”
I said, “What?”
Cal repeated, “You know…”
I wasn’t going to push it, but he completed his thought anyway: “Race. We still got a thing about that in North Carolina.”
Cal grew up where and when the incidents of “Blood Done Signed My Name” (the murder of African-American Vietnam soldier Henry Marrow) occurred, and he served as mayor in an even smaller North Carolina town. I defer to his knowledge about race and politics here.
Cal and I had plenty of time to chat. We were only interrupted three or four times by voters. Cal sighed with disgust, “Other democracies take the day off to vote. Maybe Election Day should be a national holiday.”
Cal’s suggestion was met with a howl of protest from our GOP counterparts handing out flyers a few feet away. These two fine women are fixtures at this polling place and are committed, dawn-to-dusk, God-and-country, Republicans. “What about shift workers? Hospitals have to stay open all the time. What about them? It wouldn’t be fair. Can’t do that? What about illegals?”
They expressed certainty that the shift-worker obstacle was insurmountable, and that the vote should only be held on Election Day itself—even then, only if you knew what you were doing. I’m sure they didn’t see their comment as in any way supporting efforts to suppress the legitimate vote. I suspected they wouldn’t object to increased efforts to make sure only the right people voted: people with jobs, people who owned land and stocks, true citizen-shareholders.
“Don’t vote for that school bond!” one suggested as she moved away from us to edu-ma-cate a voter. “Your kids will be paying for that for over 20 years.”
I smiled to Cal. “I’m not tracking that. If she gets her way, everybody’s kids will drop out of school and have three part-time minimum-wage jobs, waiting to hit the North Carolina Edu-ma-cation Lottery.”
Cal taught me that if the real estate mantra is “Location! Location! Location!”, then the election mantra is “Turnout! Turnout! Turnout!” He expressed little hope for any Democrat if turnout was as low as expected.
Cal was right. The NY Times estimated that the national turnout averaged about 40 percent—the worst turnout in 72 years—leading to our newly minted GOP mandate. So let’s do the math. In the Tillis-Hagan race, less than a 2 percentage of points separated them. Because of our Libertarian candidate, Mr. Tillis won the election fair and square, with less than a simple majority (49 percent). With a 40-percent turnout, that means little more than 19 percent of eligible NC voters actually cast their vote for the soon to be Senator. Nineteen percent.
Many have contributed to this mandate by staying home. Some stayed home because of distrust in the system. Some because of the constant blabbering of talking heads and shiny suits about “recovery,” when Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Independent all see the stock market at all-time highs and their wages flat or falling. Some believed FOX News and stayed inside on Election Day because it’s too scary out there, and there’s really nothing left to do except buy more ammo for the apocalypse. Some laughed with Jon Stewart and failed to take our part in the process seriously. Whatever, the result of our apathy is horrific.
Mr. Tillis isn’t horrific. He won’t do as much harm or good as people hope or fear. He’s just another shiny suit catching the reflection of our ignorance, apathy and quiet acquiescence.